Josh Rank

f l a s h  f i c t i o n


At first, Mom was Mom. Red hair, long fingers, quick smile. We’d dance together in the kitchen. She’d take me to soccer practice. Every night before bed she’d tell me, “I love you.”  And when I started asking about her cough, she added, “I’m okay.”


One day, Mom became a caterpillar. She was still Mom, but she moved slower.  She danced slower. She said less, but she still said, “I love you. I’m okay.”


Then Mom wrapped herself up in bed and became a cocoon.


She stayed like this for a while. She even moved from her cocoon at home to another building with a lot of

cocoons. The whole time, she told me, “I love you. I’m okay.”


Everyone was surprised when, one day, Mom changed again. Doctors and nurses came running into the room.

I knew my Mom was okay. She would always be okay because I love her, and she loves me.

I think they expected her to turn into a butterfly. Maybe that was why they rushed around so much. But she didn’t. Instead of layered scales of colorful chitin, feathers emerged which were so white they almost seemed to glow. They covered her from the crown of her head to her now claw-like feet.


Everyone stood back as Mom crawled from the cocoon and shook her feathers. She stretched her wings from one side of the room to the other. She stood on the bed with the torn cocoon covering the mattress beneath her feet. The doctors and nurses took a step back with wide eyes and fingers spread. My father reached a shaking hand toward her which she took and glanced at him but only for a moment. Then, she looked toward me, smiled, nodded, and flapped her massive wings once.


She broke through the window and joined the rest of the birds as they flew through the sky. I kept my eye on her but soon lost her in the countless number of swirling and diving figures. I had to look away as they flew directly toward the sun which seemed to devour them as they disappeared within its glare. Despite the shining sun, despite the ease of flight for my Mom and the others, rain poured down from unseen clouds and gave the feeling of two different days existing within one.

Everyone in the room was silent, but I think I was the only one who heard her say, “I love you. I’m okay.”

I wasn’t sad as I watched her disappear into the sunshine. Birds are always around, and I knew she would be, too. Even if the bird is red, or brown, or blue, I can feel her watching me from the fence post or power line. The morning song of unseen birds greeting the rising sun from the trees is drenched in her voice.

We still dance together. She still watches my soccer games. And I still know that I’ll be okay because she’s okay, and she loves me.


Josh Rank graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and has had stories published in The Emerson Review, The Feathertale Review, Hypertext Magazine, The Oddville Press, The Satirist, Corvus Review, Inwood Indiana, and elsewhere. He currently eats sandwiches in Nashville, TN.  More ramblings can be found at and on Twitter @i_am_josh_rank.